Changing the World – One Student at a Time
Today’s youth need to understand energy in order to wisely power their homes, their cars and their careers. The Solar In the Schools outreach program is devoted to teaching the growing importance of energy – both how it is used and where it is sourced. Our hands-on renewable energy education approach not only teaches these vital concepts, it instills precious hope for the future.
Since its inception in 2002, thousands of students and teachers have participated in the Solar In the Schools program through our regional Hands-On Classroom Presentations. Each year we reach more than 2000 K-12 students, 20 at a time, with dynamic presentations that have kids generating human-powered electricity and wiring small solar cells together in no time. Renewable Energy Science Kits are also provided to regional teachers through our lending library.
Teacher Training Workshops
In 2007, SEI created the first accredited teacher training workshop, called Teaching Solar Energy to Kids. This workshop allowed us to effectively increase our national outreach by bringing in youth educators from around the country. These teachers and non-formal educators returned to their schools as energy champions, armed with hands-on techniques and materials for effectively conveying renewable energy concepts. Our presentations were aligned with current Colorado State educational standards. We are not currently offering this training program, but may have similar opportunities in the future.
Free Renewable Energy Online Course
In 2010 Solar In the Schools dramatically increased its range by adding a free, high-school-level Introduction to Renewable Energy online course covering energy efficiency and the many types of renewable energy. We highly encourage teachers to take this course and evaluate it as curriculum to be used with high school students. This course is now also available EN ESPAÑOL.
Creative Change This is the best curriculum resource for teachers (2011). Combining all educational diciplines and audiences with a common theme of sustainability and social equity. Wholistic education that understands the need to retell the story of our history and humanity from the perspective of environmental sustainability and conscientious social behavior. WOW!
Facing The Future Workbook – Engaging Students through Global Issues: Real World Math
Green Teacher – wow, you should know about GreenTeacher. SEI carries some of their curriculum for sale. This is a collaborative effort of teachers all around North America. Their lesson plans address all different learning styles, and they are usually hands-on, creative, and impactful.
Energy Teachers – this site gives teachers the latest links and bibliographies on energy related lessons. This is a great diverse and independent resource for teachers.
U.S. Department of Energy: Energy Education This is a good resource for teachers looking for lesson plans, scholarships, volunteer, jobs and more. Searchable and indexed.
No Impact Project – This curriculum uses No Impact Man – the book and the film – to help middle and high school students explore the effects their everyday behavior has on the environment, their health, and their well-being. I like this site, practical, empowering, and up to date (2011)
Wisconsin Renewable Energy Program – Wisconsin’s K-12 Renewable Energy Education program. This site has a wealth of information for everyone!
Population Education CD-ROM – Earth Matters: Studies for Our Global Future.
U.S. Energy Information Administration -Independent statistics and analysis on energy in the U.S. Has LOTS of information, and plenty of graphs, charts, and maps that can be used in lession plans or projects.
Classroom Earth -Designed for high school teachers, this website includes resources, lesson plans, and other ideas on how to incorporate environmental topics into science curriculum, a wealth of information.
Energy Conservation Curriculum – The Bonneville Power Association’s 3rd – 8th grade curriculum for energy conservation. A great resource for North West region educators.
Oil Consumption Poster – Resources for teachers on energy consumption and carbon footprint activities. You can also sign up to receive a free poster on world oil consumption at their home page. This poster is worth the time to ask!
Florida Solar Energy Center – Find classroom activities, a calendar of events, kits, competitions, continuing education opportunities, and general information on renewables.
Solar Schoolhouse – Out of California, this organization offers curriculum and solar kits for sale while offering accredited teacher training workshops in Renewable Energy for teachers throughout the country.
National Energy Education Development (NEED) – A project that creates networks of teachers and students interested in promoting an energy conscious society while offering free grade specific curriculum and kits for sale. It should be noted that Need is funded by Conoco Philips and is biased towards fossil fuel energy production.
Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) A Complete and well organized website of information and links. This also is a great organization for school presentations on climate change and supports proactive action from students. Worth lots of time!
Climate Crisis – “An Inconvenient Truth” homepage. Lots of good tips.
National Resource Defense Council – The National Resource Defense Council FAQ’s on Global Warming and what we can do about it.
Climate Change – The Campus Climate leverages the power of young people to organize on college campuses and high schools across Canada and the U.S. to win 100% Clean Energy policies at their schools.
Learn More About Climate features six short educational films about climate change in Colorado and three model lessons for middle and high school teachers.
Union of Concerned Scientists – the Union of Concerned Scientists, a coalition of citizens and scientists for environmental solutions, offers more technical papers, facts, and solutions appropriate for high school students.
Aspen Canary Initiative – “Calculate your Cox emissions” page. This site also promotes energy conservation by listing many things you can do at home.
EPA Energy Profiler -Enter your zip code into this power profiler and see where your energy actually comes from, emissions, and how that compares to national averages.
Class Room Earth -Energy Audit Lab designed for high school AP classe.
Kidwind – Kidwind is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving science education while introducing curriculum for wind power. In addition to providing student geared wind power kits, Kidwind is a great resource for teachers wanting to take accredited workshops on teaching about wind power.
Science Shareware – this site tells you how to build a human powered bicycle generator for your classroom
Solar Cooking Wiki – frequently asked solar cooking questions and answers
Pitsco Education Resources – A complete resource for grants: grant applications, tips, searchable index, and more, lots of federal education grant links!!
Database for State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency – this site gives state by state financial incentives for homeowners and businesses which implement renewable energy.
BP Energy Education Grant – BP Solar’s A+ for Energy grants for Teachers (due in spring).
http://www.socialstudies.org/awards/grants/mcauliffe/ -$1500 grants for social studies teachers.
Building Green Schools – the US Green Building Council’s “How to Build Green Schools” and tons of other green building resources.
Climate Change initiatives – The Campus Climate leverages the power of young people to organize on college campuses and high schools across Canada and the U.S. to win 100% Clean Energy policies at their schools.
Australian Government Climate Change Resources that help teachers and students understand and act on Climate Change issues affecting the continent.
Answers for Older Students
Our free Intro to Renewable Energy online course is written at a high-school-level. It includes video, audio, interactive exercises, quizzes and discussion forums for each of 10 lessons. The course covers energy efficiency, solar electricity, wind energy, other types of renewable energy as well as careers in renewable energy. Finish with good grades and you can print out your SEI Record of Completion.
Solar In the Schools answers your energy questions. If your question isn’t covered, please contact us directly.
Photovoltaics refers specifically to the practice of converting the sun’s energy directly into electricity using photovoltaic cells. Photovoltaic cells are often referred to as PV cells or solar cells.
- Photovoltaic Cell — Thin squares, discs, or films of semiconductor material that generate voltage and current when exposed to sunlight.
- Module — Photovoltaic cells wired together and laminated between a clear superstrate (glazing) and encapsulating substrate.
- Array — One or more modules with mounting hardware and wired together at a specific voltage.
- Charge Controller — Power conditioning equipment to regulate battery voltage.
- Battery Storage — A medium that stores direct current (DC) electrical energy.
- Inverter — An electrical device that changes direct current to alternating current (AC) to operate loads that require alternating current.
- DC Loads — Appliances, motors and equipment powered by direct current.
- AC Loads — Appliances, motors and equipment powered by alternating current.
Because solar cells are modular, a system’s size can be increased (or decreased) over time, according to need.
Details on the workings of solar cells:http://www.howstuffworks.com/solar-cell1.htm
These simple systems are an appropriate, cost-effective option for loads operated only during the daytime. Examples of day use systems include:
* Remote water pumping with a storage tank.
* Operation of fans, blowers, or circulators to distribute thermal energy during the day for solar water heating systems or ventilation systems.
* Stand-alone, solar-powered appliances such as calculators and toys.
It is also possible, in a utility grid interconnected system (see below), to do without batteries, as such a system is essentially using the grid as its storage device.
A draw-back of connecting your PV system to the grid (and using the grid as “storage”) is that when your area suffers a power outage, your PV system automatically shuts off. (This is done intentionally, in order to protect people working on the lines from live electricity.) To avoid this problem, many people introduce batteries to their grid-tied system, which provide power in the event of a utility power outage.
A household can save electricity a number of ways, including: purchasing energy efficient appliances and fixtures (e.g. compact fluorescent lights); using solar thermal energy (e.g. drying clothes in the sun, using a solar hot water system); investing in propane or natural gas-powered major appliances (such as refrigerators, stoves, and clothes dryers); and cutting back on appliance use (e.g. turning off lights, abandoning the electric can opener).
A list of top-rated, energy efficient appliances, cars, and trucks http://www.aceee.org
Home energy saving checklist, too: http://www.aceee.org/consumerguide/checklist.htm
Energy-saving appliances, check out http://www.energystar.gov
In many countries of the world, burning wood and animal dung for cooking is wreaking havoc on the environment: contributing to deforestation, desertification, air pollution, and global warming. In addition, cooking over smoky fires contributes to respiratory illnesses, and in many parts of the world, women and children spend over half their waking hours gathering firewood (which, in many places, is becoming more and more scarce). Besides ameliorating these problems, solar cookers can also be used to purify drinking water, sanitize medical instruments, and heat water for laundry. Their potential for bettering lives is tremendous.
And, in this country, cooking outside in a solar cooker can dramatically reduce your home cooling bills in the summer!
The best solar cooking web site we’ve seen is www.solarcooking.org
PDF Article comparing photovoltaic and solar thermal power plants: http://www.volker-quaschning
But don’t despair! Think of all the room we have to improve! According to www.energystar.gov, if, over the next ten years, everyone in the U.S. chose energy-efficient appliances, “we would cut the nation’s utility bills by up to $100 billion and make major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions at the same time.”
Answers for Younger Students
But wait, there’s more! Plants make food out of sunlight, and then animals eat plants, and then we eat animals (or maybe we just eat plants, if we?re vegetarians). Either way, without sunlight, plants couldn’t make food, and there would be nothing for us to eat. Not only could plants not make food without the sun, they also couldn’t make oxygen, and no animals could breathe, including us! The sun produces nearly all the heat on the planet, too–without it, the earth would be freezing cold–minus hundreds of degrees Fahrenheit, almost as cold as space. The sun also makes the wind blow and the ocean currents flow. Its heat makes clouds, rain, snow, and all the weather on our planet, too.
Skipping ahead a few thousand years, in the 1700s someone in Europe figured out you could make water boil by collecting the sun’s heat behind a few panes of glass. A solar hot water heater! From the early 1920s to just before WWII, everyone in Florida heated their water with solar hot water heaters.
Using solar panels to turn the sun’s light directly into electricity is new, though. That technology was only invented only 50 years ago. (Most of this information on the history of solar energy use comes from http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/earth/stories/s225110.htm.)
When sunlight hits a solar panel, it makes electrons in the silicon move around. (Electrons are teeny tiny specks–they?re way too small for us to see, even under a microscope.) The electrons flow through wires that were built into the solar panel. And presto! We have electricity! We can do whatever we want with this electricity, run a calculator, a CD player, or, if we have big enough solar panels, a satellite! Solar panels are also called photovoltaic panels. “Photo” means light and “voltaic” means electricity.
For cool stuff on satellites and space stations, check out: http://collections.ic.gc.ca/satellites/english/main.html
Once you start trying to save energy, you’ll find that there are some things in your home that you might not have to use at all. Instead of using a clothes dryer, for example, you can dry your clothes outside in the sun. Instead of playing a computer game, you can go do the dishes. (Just kidding! Sort of.)
Eating food from your own garden, or food that’s grown and put into packages near your home also saves energy. (The label on the package usually says where the food comes from.) Reusing and recycling things saves energy, but it saves even more if you don’t use them in the first place!
Once you start thinking about it, you’ll find there are lots of ways to use less energy. It’s even a fun thing to try and do.
Solar cookers are great because they save money and energy, and produce no pollution. People don’t have to cut down trees for firewood, and they make no nasty smoke to hurt people’s lungs, things that are big problems in countries that don’t have as much money as we do. Solar cookers can also be used to make water safe to drink, make doctor’s tools safe to use, and heat water for laundry.
The best solar cooking web site we’ve seen is www.solarcooking.org. They have great instructions for making your own cooker, and lots of other cool information.
Making electricity with solar energy is still more expensive than making it by burning coal, and adults definitely don’t like expensive. [Actually, though, if you count how burning coal hurts the environment, and if you count that the government helps pay for electricity made in coal plants, solar energy might not really be more expensive. Some people think that if you counted everything fairly, solar energy would actually cost less than electricity made from burning coal.]
The exciting news is: YOUR generation has a great chance to use solar energy!! If you keep learning and thinking more about energy and how you use it; and learning and thinking more about different kinds of solar energy; and maybe bugging your parents and your teachers and your congress people about it, maybe by the time you’re our age, everyone will be using solar energy!